UPDATE 1:55 P.M.: I wasn’t the only person who thought Newt was neutered by the silent debate audience. Newt told Fox this morning he will not allow “the media” to silence audiences during future debates. “The media doesn’t control free speech,” Newt said. “People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.”
He has a point, although I think a laugh track would be just as effective.
ORIGINAL POST FROM 8:31 A.M.:
Newt Gingrich seemed off during last night’s GOP debate at University of South Florida. Maybe he was tired. Maybe Romney’s jabs were getting to him. About five minutes in, however, I started wondering if the debate’s “no audience cheering aloud allowed” format was stifling to the former Speaker. If you’ve watched even one of the debates, you’ve seen Newt get energized when one of his zingers fires up the crowd.
Noam Scheiber of “The New Republic” had a similar thought, rendered a bit more provacatively:
Newt simply has a hard time bringing his A-game when he can’t whip the crowd into a blood-lusting frenzy. (The rules of the debate prohibited applause in response to particular answers.) There’s a word for someone who exhibits such tendencies. But it isn’t “presidential.” It’s “demagogue.”
Watching Newt was like watching a onetime strongman forced to stand trial for war crimes: It was mostly subdued mutterings punctuated by the occasional outburst that only reminds you how far he is from the height of his powers.
Speaking of zingers.
If you missed the debate, I live-Tweeted it.
In fact, even if you watched the debate, I live-Tweeted it.